It’s funny sometimes how we discover new actors. I recently discovered Richard Armitage in a bit of a round about way. I began my path when I watched Downton Abbey on PBS, the period drama recently done by the same guy who did Gosford Park (Julian Fellowes). Though I’ve still only seen the American version with pieces cut out, it was a fabulous series with great actors and characters. It definitely left me wanting more. I was quite taken with Brenden Coyle’s character, and thought he did a marvelous job. Coyle’s Mr. Bates was the kind of person I’d liked to have known. So I looked him up to see what else he was in.
The first thing I found was a BBC production called North & South. For those of you in the U.S., no, this is not the long Civil War miniseries. It is an English period drama with romantic overtones based on a book by Elizabeth Gaskell of the same name, from the mid 1800s. I had not heard of it, so watching this four part movie version of the book was an unexpected delight. It also introduced me to the amazing talents of Richard Armitage. He played John Thornton, the stern master (operator) of a cotton mill in northern England. One of the first things I learned was that he very adeptly portrays complex characters, making you love them and hate them at the same time. Or you hate them at first, and then grow to love them. Or maybe you just love them all along.
This fantastic movie led me to see what else Richard had been in. Unfortunately, many of his credits are in things that I can’t get from Netflix or see on this side of the pond, but he did play a major part in Robin Hood. This three season BBC production was the kind of show I’d want to see anyway, and from the first episode, I was hooked. The entire show was well-cast, well-acted, well-shot, funny, adventurous, and highly enjoyable. And of course, there was Richard, playing Sir Guy of Gisborne in a love-to-hate-him but also grow-to-feel-for-him kind of role. As the three series went on, his initially one dimensional character quickly became two dimensional, and then three. Though incredibly modest, Richard seems to do everything that he attempts very well. He can smolder, attack, taunt, love, and roll his eyes with equal convincingness. And his voice…
Acting in Robin Hood is a bit geeky, but he has gone on to play roles higher on the geek scale. Richard has been acting for the past few years in the British action show, Spooks/MI-5. He’s got a role in the upcoming Captain America movie where he’ll play Nazi Heinz Kruger. And in March of this year, he starts shooting down in New Zealand where he’ll play the dwarf, Thorin Oakenshield, who leads the group of dwarves and hobbits on their quest in the two Hobbit movies coming out in 2012 and 2013. How they’ll shave a foot and a half off his height of 6′ 2″ I’m not sure, but I look forward to finding out. Major members of the cast (including Richard) recently participated in a Q&A session with the New Zealand press (he doesn’t say anything until 26 minutes in, and then he only talks for a little bit).
I don’t know if Richard himself is a geek, but he grew to his tall stature early in high school, and it seems he didn’t come into his own until later in life, finding more work in his 30s. (Does that sound familiar to anyone?) Also, he does love to read fantasy and science fiction.
Having seen and read several interviews with Richard Armitage, one of the reasons why he’s a Geek I Love is that he seems to be a real person. He’s very private about his personal life. He’s incredibly serious about his work, making up background stories for his characters and wardrobe, keeping a journal, and really engrossing himself in who each character truly is. It’s no wonder he has become such a successful actor. You never get the feeling that he’s acting. He takes my breath away with his acting skills and general presence.
I have no idea if Richard Armitage would want to join me for a board game night or to sit on my couch to watch the (original) Star Wars trilogy, but he’s certainly a Geek I Love. And he’d always be welcome.
Note to Richard: I hope you are not offended by your inclusion in our Geeks We Love series. Around here, it’s meant as a compliment of the highest sort. It means you are passionate about your work and your interests. And that your endeavors are the kinds of things in which we are interested.